Gap Year Expeditions

Credit: Cass Colman

Take Time for Your Future

You’re ready to take the lead and take time for your future. To connect to the outdoors and yourself. To stand out from your peers and make the most of your gap year. The extended and immersive lessons of a NOLS gap year are life-changing. Wherever in the world you travel with NOLS, you will emerge with confidence, competence, direction, courage, and perspective.


Why Choose NOLS for Gap Year

Develop Leadership Skills

Leadership is taught every day through real-life experience: Navigating a glacier becomes a lesson in communication; canoeing a rapid teaches teamwork; and rock climbing reveals a strength you didn’t know you had. Finish with leadership skills valuable for college, careers, and beyond.

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Gain Global Perspective

A NOLS gap year can take you from the Himalaya to Kilimanjaro, from the shores of the Pacific Ocean to the waterways of the Adirondacks. Many locations include options for homestays, cultural engagement, and service learning that will broaden and deepen your perspective.


Explore the Wilderness

Outdoor skills, ranging from backpacking to sea kayaking to mountaineering, form the foundation of every expedition. You will have the opportunity to progress, master, and test a variety of newfound skills with experienced and supportive instructors. While you explore, form a connection to nature and learn to appreciate living simply.


Learn from the Best

NOLS sets the standard for instructor excellence. Our instructors are wilderness experts and compassionate mentors committed to student well-being and success.

Wilderness Skills

Under the guidance of your instructors, you and your group will explore some of the world’s most stunning wilderness areas. Your course may focus on developing one skill in depth or combine multiple skill types. You don’t need any prior experience—you can start as a complete beginner, or work on skills you already know.

Skills to Travel in the Backcountry

Blog: Stories from the Wild


Gap Year: An Incredible Opportunity

While taking a gap year is not a normal thing to do in the U.S. after graduating from high school ... Read More


A Second Family: My Home Stay in Patagonia

My group-mates and I had been together since October; the ten of us had crossed icy rivers and hunkered... Read More


Pursuing A Passion: Choosing An Outdoor Gap Year

Gap year parent Eugene Buchanan writes about his daughter's surprising decision to take a gap year... Read More

NOLS Diploma: A Recognized Credential

A NOLS diploma represents your cumulative course accomplishments to universities, employers, and others. Some expeditions offer additional industry-recognized certifications and certificates of completion:

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  • Wilderness First Aid
  • Wilderness First Responder
  • Wilderness EMT

NOLS Certificates of Completion

  • Leave No Trace Trainer
  • Leave No Trace Master Educator
  • Level 1 Avalanche Training
  • Avalanche Awareness
  • Rock Climbing Training
  • Rock Rescue Training
  • Swiftwater Rescue Training

Financial Aid

NOLS offers nearly $1.9 million in scholarships each year. You can also use 529 savings plans, consortium agreements for federal financial aid, veterans’ benefits, and AmeriCorps awards to help fund your gap year.

See all Financial Aid Options

Academic Credit

Earn up to 27 credit hours in a variety of fields, including Cultural Studies, Leadership Techniques, Environmental Studies, and Risk Management.

Learn More about Earning Academic Credit

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